Every year I participate in #pitchwars — a mentoring contest where established authors choose and mentor one aspiring writer through the revision, pitch and query process. As one of the few YA Horror writers in the mentor pool, I get pitched a fair amount of the horror/ thriller genre. After reading all 80+ pitches and slotting them into genre categories, I thought it’d be fun to share with you some of the slush pile horror trends I saw.

Let me preface this by saying a fair amount of my subs straddled multiple genres and were subbed to me as “YA fantasy with horror elements” or “Contemporary Psychological Thriller.”  So, anything I perceived as having a horror element was included in this list.  

Disappearing kids:  I don’t mean kidnapping (see below for that) rather vanishing into thin air with the mc being left to sort out the mystery on her own.

Tarot cards: Lots and lots of Tarot cards, and Ouija boards, and cursed icons and other varies instruments of summoning the dead from their graves.

Kidnapping: This is not a new trend; getting bound and gagged then hauled off through the dark woods to the madman’s lair has always been good horror fodder. But what caught my attention was the inordinate number of them taking place on a school trip …specifically to Central/South American countries. They all work great mind you, I just thought it was an interesting setting trend.

Terrorists:  I wasn’t expecting this one, but it was a thread I saw in a few of my submissions. None were written from the terrorists POV (no there is an idea!) Most revolved around teens being recruited to try and derail terrorist plots.

Murdered Parents:  Again, not a new topic, but the ones I did get revolved around friends or classmates being killed or put in some sort of mortal danger as a direct result of the mc trying to solve a parent’s murder.

Reality TV:  I am going to attribute this trend to the overwhelming amount of Reality TV we are all exposed to these days. I saw a few in the vein of “THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT” (which scared the crap out of me btw) and a couple more where the mc was an unknowing player in a televised game.

Nightmares: Dreams that transcended your subconscious and become a living, breathing, terror induction faction of your waking world. Think Freddy Krueger meets THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR.


For fun, I also polled a couple of the MG mentors to see what horror/thriller trends they were seeing. The answer I got back in spades was: GHOSTS!!!!…and few talking lizards 🙂  Interesting, because of the 80+ submissions that hit my YA inbox, only one dealt with ghosts.

Categories: Writing, YA

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2 replies

  1. That’s really interesting because, I think it was last year, ghosts were all over YA horror pitches.

  2. So cool to see the patterns. I wonder how they form!

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